Why finding the right coach is like panning for gold

Your calendar is full, your whereabouts planned for the day. Then the phone rings – a crisis is underway and you’re needed to sort it out. Now. Whatever else you had intended to do today will have to be pushed back. Sound familiar? It’s tough to prioritise even the most everyday tasks when you’re firefighting.

When you’re in the office, your day job will always need your attention. And that means the space and time for your own development – specifically, coaching – is often neglected.

Especially when that coaching happens in-house. After all, your coach works here too – they know what it’s like. They’ll understand, and anyway, we can just reschedule for next week. It’s a scenario that we see often. Simply finding the time is a hurdle, and so too is discussing personal and career issues with someone else from the business. In that case, it’s usually politics that get in the way.

An external coach that’s removed from the everyday office politics and whose time you’re paying for is the answer. So how can organisations find the right coaches for their people?

Starting the sifting process

There are plenty of coaches around; choosing one that’s the right fit is the difficult part. Finding a coach by yourself is a bit like panning for gold; you know that the rewards will be great in the end, but you’re going to have to start by kneeling in the dirt and examining every sparkly speck that passes through your pan. It takes time, patience, and may well leave you with a sore back from crouching over the river for long periods.

If you go it alone, one of the first things to consider is the coach’s experience and any accreditation to back that up. When considering a freelance coach, academic qualifications, such as an MA, or certification from a professional body are the hallmarks that reassure you about the individual’s credibility.

The coach’s life and career experience are also relevant to whether they will be a fit. It’s nerve-wracking, however, to engage someone without accreditation. That’s where the services of a coaching consultancy are useful. They have already taken the risk of engaging the individual and have done the job of filtering out the best coaches, providing extra reassurance.

On top of experience and accreditation, chemistry is crucial. Just because a coach is a good fit on paper, it’s a good idea to meet with them before committing to anything. And yes, that does mean meeting them face to face, not squeezing in a call between meetings. A relationship between the right coach for the right person will ultimately produce more effective outcomes than a great coach for the wrong person.

What do you want from your coaching encounter?

Accreditations and experience are vitally important when choosing the coach that’s right for you. But don’t be bowled over by an impressive CV or the most prestigious qualification, without first considering what you want to achieve. It’s important to think about what value the style of coaching on offer will bring to your experience.

For instance, at Farscape, we’re particularly enthusiastic about coaching in the outdoors. Physical distance from the office, everyday stresses and distractions is hugely beneficial. Allowing the mind to wander in a natural environment and make organic, novel connections has a far greater impact than being seated in a meeting room, with the noise of business happening just feet away. And while every outdoors coaching experience varies – from multi-day treks to a walk around a local park – the return on investment is greater.

Of course, intense coaching comes at a cost and is not always an easy sell to the board. Feedback, case studies, and measurable outcomes are key indicators of success – and also provide reassurance when deciding who to use.

Value: DIY or hand over to the pros?

It’s possible to find a good coach by yourself. And, to be truthful, it may well result in a smaller invoice for your business. Good news? On the face of things, yes.

Peel back the time spent looking for a suitable coach and the risk of appointing someone that you’ve never worked with before – how does the cheaper option look now? What if the coach doesn’t have the relevant experience? What if the results are poor?

Using an established provider gives you that security. Yes, you’ll probably pay more in the end. The advantage is that getting the right coach in place for your needs is as simple as making a phone call. Farscape, or any coaching consultancy worth their salt, will listen to what your challenges are, understand the desired outcomes, and recommend a coach with the experience to help you get there. And if you feel more relaxed and confident in the abilities of the coach to whom you’re divulging your hopes, fears, challenges and successes, the chances are you’ll get more out of the process.

Pitfalls and how to avoid them

The process of appointing a coach isn’t easy, particularly if you go it alone. These practical tips will help you recognise and avoid potential pitfalls:

  • Going by word of mouth alone – a very good indicator of a coach’s ability, though not the be all and end all. What worked for someone else might not work for you. Initial chemistry sessions (short, complimentary meetings) with a selection of coaches will give you a better idea as to who will be the best fit for you.
  • Contracts – We’re not just talking about commercial contracts either, but a contract between coach and coachee about what they are hoping to achieve and how. If everyone knows where they stand at the beginning, things are less likely to go awry.
  • NDAs – commercially-sensitive material is bound to come up in coaching sessions. An NDA provides reassurance that what’s discussed in private won’t become public.
  • Fees – how much, for what, what’s included, what’s extra, and when will it be paid? It’s easy to overlook the finer details of cost, but it’s vital to get this out in the open at the beginning. This avoids any confusion or nasty surprises and means the coach and coachee can stay focused on development.

The biggest challenge is getting started

Choosing a coach with appropriate skills is important, not only for you as an individual, it’s critical for ensuring the future success of your organisation. Yet the bewildering range of options, backgrounds, and experience is a daunting landscape to navigate. And when the territory is unfamiliar the temptation to give up before you’ve begun is considerable. The cosy surroundings of the office and the friendly faces of internal coaching colleagues look much more inviting. And maybe that’s what you need.

If you feel that you need something more, or have a pressing issue that can’t wait until your day job moves aside, give us a call. We can’t wave a magic wand. What we can do is lend an impartial ear, offer honest advice and recommend a coach that understands your challenges. Because an individual that’s better equipped to meet those challenges head-on is a valuable asset and one that will help your organisation thrive. So, the question is not whether you can afford an external coach – but can you afford not to have one?

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